Saber-Toothed Deer?

Way back in 2005, during my very first trip to China, I lived in the town of Jinan. The school had given us all a map of the city that had points of interest marked on it, like the zoo, the public square, historical and cultural sites of interest, touristy stuff. I took a lot of cues from this map for weekend adventures, and among the activities presented was the Shandong Provincial Museum.

Jinan, by the way, is the capitol of Shandong province, and is a small provincial town of 6 million people. This isn’t sarcasm. Six million isn’t enough to register as a city in a country where Beijing (20 million if you count the migrants) and Shanghai (14 million) are the big cities, 6 million isn’t enough for a blip. I only saw one skyscraper the whole time I was there, but moreover the attitude of the people was definitely more laid back and “small town” than it was in Beijing.

Despite this, the museum is not called “provincial” for the small town feel of its home city, but rather because the larger bodies of land in China are Provinces (not States, Counties, or Prefectures, the Canadians in the audience get it).

There were many astonishing things here, not the least of which was that none of the exhibits were climate controlled or protected from the public, however, in the natural history area, I found a peculiar taxidermied animal.

I read Chinese better now than I did in 2005, and I also have an electronic dictionary, which I did not have at the time, so I couldn’t read the plaque with this creature to get any kind of idea what I was looking at other than a saber-tooth deer, which seemed absurd.

Sadly, this particular day, my camera decided to lose all my pictures, so everything from the museum and Thousand Buddha Mountain was lost forever, including the picture that I took of the strange animal for later investigation.

For the last 9 years, I’ve just gone on being half (ok more than half) convinced that the Chinese just made this animal up in this backwater museum, because I’ve never encountered anything like it on line, or in nature documentaries, or even in any other Chinese museums.

Tufted Deer

Then, while perusing facebook for random entertainment, I find a link to a story about strange animals which includes my saber-tooth deer! That’s right this animal is real. The males grow long canines which they use for defense and to show off by fighting in the mating season. Well played,  mother nature.

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Bureaucracy and Paperwork for All

Certificate_Attestation_for_Saudi_Consulate_Document_AttestationAs I prepare for my journey to Saudi Arabia, I am confronted with the giant mountain of paperwork required to get the residency/employment visa. Understand that Saudi Arabia has been closed of to Westerners and/or non-Muslims for most of forever, and I understand that the government is interested in fostering tourism soon, however, to live and work with privileges of residency, one must still go through the gauntlet.

If you care to, please  see for yourself , but bear in mind that several of these steps are deceptive. Academic Verification, for example, is a whole other list which requires (among other things) official sealed transcripts, notarized copies of degrees, and a letter from the registrar verifying your attendance. I’m almost done with this, finally. Waiting on the mail man to bring me the transcripts and the last letter after a mere two weeks of ordering forms and frantic emails to the 3 educational institutions that have graced me with instruction. Once these are obtained, they must be sent to the Cultural Mission, where they will be further verified for another 2-4 weeks, and your approval will be mailed back in your pre-paid fed-ex envelope.

The delay might be a good thing however, because I finally opened up the medical exam form that my doctor has to fill out in triplicate and have certified by the board of health or the college of physicians. At least I’ll have time to get all the lab work done and stamps collected while I’m waiting for my degrees to be verified.

Oh, and lets not forget that Ramadan is in July this year, so right when I’ll be submitting this whole steaming pile of red tape, the embassy will be closed most of the day for a month. Its a snail race to see if I’ll get my visa before the August 22 start date of my employment offer. Ready, set, CRAWL!

Thor’s Well Adventure — or, The Story of How Everything that Looked Like It Was Going to Suck Turned Out Awesome After All

This started because I saw one of those FB “39 things to see before you die” and realized this one way close enough to me to get to with very little difficulty. So I decided I would go this summer. Sadly, my regular camping buddy, Paul, was unable to attend, so i tried to make new camping buddies with Joe and Julie, both of whom were looking forward to the trip, but didn’t make it either.

Finally, refusing to give up, I have convinced JIngalls and Shelby to come with me, and even managed to pick up Jane  from Portlandia on the way.  First potential suck turned awesome.

Four people and camping gear stuffed into my car for several hours was a stretch, but everyone was in good humor when we arrived. Now, I’m an over planner, so the fact that I forgot to pre-book the campsite was odd, but I called them and was assured there were plenty of walk ins available. The second potential suck turned awesome comes in here, because while driving around the loop we spotted a secluded little camp site. We actually had to climb up a few stairs to reach it, and unlike every other site, it was totally surrounded by trees, and even had a little stream running by. Perfect gladed beauty that I would never have known about if I had pre-booked a site.

Dinner was amazing, thanks to Shelby’s suggestion of STEAK. We had sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts cooked in the coals and delicious fire seared steaks, with cocktails and s’mores. Go on, be jealous.

After a few hours of good food, great company and plentiful libations, we all tottered off to sleep (thank you Kevin K for the tent, btw). We awoke to the third thing that should have sucked… RAIN. Like torrential rain, you’re never going to get a fire going for breakfast rain, and also you’re packing those tents wet.

Enter the small town of Yachats, the gem of the Oregon coast. After a sleepy, rain laden pack-up of the car, we headed over (a whole 3 miles) into town to find a diner with eggs and bacon. What we found was the most amazing place I’ve eaten at in ages. Called the Alder Restaurant and Bistro, the first thing we noticed was the reserved parking spot for the chef. 

Upon seating, we are offered complimentary Prosecco and shown a menu that would make Gordon Ramsey cry tears of joy. All the ingredients were fresh, organic and local, and the preparation was full on gourmet, while the prices were on par with any other greasy spoon with dishes ranging from 8$ for an omelette to 14$ for the fresh local seafood fried oysters benedict. 

If the comp’d wine and top notch food wasn’t enough, they had desserts from the local Bread & Roses Bakery. I ordered a chocolate torte made with nut flour instead of wheat flour, and I seriously believe this may have been my first (or at least my greatest) food-gasm ever. So, rain ruined your firewood? No prob, have the most awesome brunch ever!

Oh, and did I forget to mention, the lovely staff at the Alder drew us our treasure map to find Thor’s Well, since it is apparently not on any of the signs.

Of we go, hand drawn map in had. The rain has stopped and the sun has come out. We arrive at the beach and spend the next two hours scampering over the volcanic rocks, exploring the deep chasms worn by the tide, watching the creatures of the shallow tide pools, and finding out how close we could get to the edge before the waves soaked our feet. Check these awesome photos!

Just as we finished, the sky began to cloud up again. We piled back into the car and headed north to the constant accompaniment of rainbows! We saw so many rainbows on the drive home. One triple rainbow had the main rainbow, touched by the second where the red of the second started where the purple of the first ended, and the third rainbow which was above the other two and separated by a bit was upside-down, with the red on the bottom and violet on the top!

I am so very happy to have had this experience. I am grateful to my friends who shared it with me and helped make it wonderful. And I am grateful to the universe for having so many beautiful things in it, and letting us enjoy them. 

 

This Adventure took place May 17-18, 2014

What am I doing?

This whole thing is gonna be a little messy as I get my feet under me, but the basic plan is to share my adventures with you as I gallivant around the world, near and far. Sometimes, you’ll see a nice day hike only an hour away from my Home Base: Seattle, and sometimes you’ll see me in strange and exotic foreign lands. And if I get a chance, I’ll put up some of the old stories of adventures gone by. Wheeee!